[Election-Methods] utility theory lesson for a very confused rob brown

CLAY SHENTRUP clay at electopia.org
Thu Jan 3 10:09:20 PST 2008

On Jan 3, 2008 6:18 AM, <heitzig-j at web.de> wrote:

> > it's a proof that intensity of preference, not just order, exists.
> Well, if you claim to have such a proof, then please just post it.

i already did.  it mentioned various fruits.

> It does meet all those things.
> Nice claim again, but where is the evidence?

every facet of human existence, like the examples of taking trips in planes
and cars.

I'm very curious how you prove that my preferences fulfil the conditions
> without knowing anything about me or my preferences :-)

because preferences are just a scaler quantity, and so they have to.

> Here's the first major error I see at that link, which is perhaps one of
> many.
> Is that your style of discussion? It's not mine, though. I try to take you
> serious, so please do likewise.

yes, my style of discussion is to point out errors when i see them.  ever
heard of peer review?  same concept.

This is an argument which Warren gave, too. But you seem to confuse the fact
> that many people supposedly *behave as if* their preferences met the
> conditions with the false fact that *everybody's* preferences *do actually*
> fulfil them. Mine certainly don't.

of course they do.  you're confused or lying if you say otherwise.

> you've used a misleading alternative with the 1 cent.
> What do you mean by that? Would you or would you not enter such a lottery
> when p is small enough? And if so, how small must p be for you to put the
> life at that risk?

what i mean is that the reason people won't put their child's life at risk
for 1 cent because they can get 1 cent in safer ways.  but say you took away
that alternative, and forced them to live at home at a subsistence level,
and then told them that for every amount p by which they'd let us increase
the odds of their child's being killed, we'd give them 1 cent, then if we
made X low enough, they'd do it.  they'd take 1 million pennies for
p*1,000,000 probability of having their child die.

this is an undeniable fact based on the real choices of every human being in
existence, without exception.

> 1 cent seems so insubstantial as to be negligible.
> Exactly! It is negligible compared to the child's life. Mathematically
> speaking: It is infinitesimal. That's just what non-archimedean arithmetics
> is all about.

but you missed the point!  the point isn't just that the cent in
negligible.  because we can also make p infinitesimal to the point that 1
cent should be worth risking the child's life.  the point is that the 1 cent
can so easily be earned in safer ways than risking your child's life.

> no it's not at all.  if you see one person in the E.R. with a urinary
> tract infection, and another with his arm hanging on by a tendon after
> getting into a car wreck, it's obvious who is in "more pain".
> Is that so? And what does that prove? Only that most of us will prefer to
> have a urinary tract infection instead of having one's arm hanging on by a
> tendon after getting into a car wreck. But the question was not whether
> preferences exist but whether they are based on additive utilities!

this comment was in response to your claim that we cannot compare utilities
between people, not the part about whether utility is additive.  the point
is, yes, we can compare utility between people.  that's what it proves.

> the problem in real life is that we can't measure utility with some kind
> of mind probe.  computer simulations fix that.
> Now finally you admit at least this: One can't measure utility in real
> life. And therefore it cannot be used in elections.

yes we can measure it in real life, but not with a perfectly accurate mind
probe.  instead we have to use imperfect voting methods.  and computer
simulations tell us how close these election methods come to the accuracy of
a mind probe.

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